Introduction and Interview by David Wagstaff
This interview with Danielle and Shea is part of a series of articles from entrepreneurs, compiled with the goal of providing other business owners and soon-to-be business owners with a realistic view of what it takes to run a business and some of the challenges commonly faced.
As a unique aspect of this article, it is the first of the series on Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender & Queer (LGBTQ) business owners. As we develop a larger group of articles, expect to see articles focused on specific industries, stages of business and likely other attributes that may define some aspect of our business identity.
Fittingly, on Danielle and Shea’s website I found this quote, which made me smile.
“Do we have to know who’s gay and who’s straight? Can’t we just love everybody and judge them by the car they drive?” Ellen DeGeneres
While most of these interviews stem from people who have applied to be part of the Entrepreneur’s Network, I met Danielle and Shea recently through a personal introduction.
A person who is interested in developing the reputation of a local community as being LGBTQ-friendly found me on the StartOut Website (link to https://startout.org/) as a resource for business owners. He introduced me to Danielle and Shea as Lesbian business owners in Woodbury, NJ.
So back to the question, does it matter if a business owner is LGBTQ? As part of this series, I’m trying to pass along some lessons I’ve learned over the years.
The lesson here is work with customer segments which are natural to you, or at least be open to opportunities that may develop from these groups. For example, if you live in NJ but are from Puerto Rico, you may find other Puerto Rican businesses owners as a supportive affinity group.
I regularly see female business owners marketing to other women. That doesn’t mean the affinity group has to be your exclusive market, although for some businesses it is. But it may be a space where it’s relatively easier to find trust.
As I learned more about Danielle and Shea by looking at their website and profile, I found their company name fun and creative – A Tail of Two Creatives. Because they are in digital marketing, their brand, logo, and look of their website immediately fostered confidence and trust in their brand.
Their LinkedIn Profile also built confidence. They each have nearly ten years of professional experience in digital marketing, social media or creative fields.
I had a chance to speak with them and learned more about their experience and ultimately decided to work together. As part of this process, I was impressed that they were willing to invest some time in getting to know my business. You have to be pretty confident in your services to be willing to invest some time in getting to know a prospect.
For my part, when Danielle and Shea can find ways to help me see a positive ROI on my marketing, I can see a very long-term relationship with them. As a business owner, I would prefer to work with the same trusted business partners for the long-run. It’s disruptive to switch partners, and there is always the ramp-up learning, resulting in lower ROI.
In the interview, the first few questions and answers are really clear and speak for themselves, but I think it’s worth commenting on the situation of family members working together. In my experience, having two founders or two people committed to a business’ success significantly improves the probability of success if they don’t have major issues in their working relationship.
I tried working with my husband in one of my businesses a few years ago, and we found we didn’t work well together. We discovered it ran the risk of hurting our relationship. We decided to keep business and personal life separate.
I have clients who have spouses working as equal partners and decision makers in the business and I have had several married couple teams where one spouse leads the company and the other spouse manages the day to day operations of the business.
The benefit of these types of relationships can include:
- A fully trusted partner in the business
- Two people equally committed to business success
- The ability to use the unique strengths of two people
- The ability to share the workload. Running all aspects of a business takes a lot of work
- The ability to spend time with someone you love or care about
In question 6, Danielle and Shea mention they have found the 80/20 rule and that 80% of their business profitability comes from 20% of their customers. Since providing financial consulting services and financial advice to business owners is my primary service, this point hit home for me.
It’s very common in businesses to find a relatively small percentage of customers can generate most of the business’ profitability. Knowing which customers and which types of customers are most profitable for your business is an important lesson for many business owners. That distinction can make a huge difference in the long-run profitability of the company.
What led you to become an entrepreneur?
At the heart of it, we knew we were meant for something greater and wanted to make a difference. That pull only got stronger after working in the corporate world for nearly a decade. We felt chained to our desks, producing revenue for companies that could replace us in a second.
We wanted to live a life true to ourselves, not what others expected of us. We craved time and location freedom; to work during our most productive hours from anywhere in the world.
As cliché as it sounds, we realized that life is too short to waste so many hours each day doing things we didn’t want to do. So, we decided to start a business around a life we loved instead.
A brief description of your business and what are your aspirations for it?
We strive to help businesses get better at business using digital marketing tools. We partner with companies to develop and execute customized digital strategies focused on WordPress web development, social media, and content strategy.
Everything we do is to help our clients build brand awareness and establish intimate business relationships online while staying focused on no-frills metrics, like customer lifetime value and return on investment.
Digital marketing is often a very cluttered and confusing space. We keep our clients engaged and educated throughout the process. We not only want them to know what we’re doing, but also why we’re doing it that way.
We believe integrity, honesty, and respect are foundations for a great relationship and business. We aim to provide all clients with a stellar experience and truly value their needs, concerns, and feedback. We aspire to continually improve and make our clients’ lives easier so they can do more of what they love.
What have you done with your business that you are proud of or that has worked really well?
We center our business around core values, one of which is giving back to causes near and dear to our hearts. As an LGBT-owned business, we routinely participate in and contribute to LGBTQ+ initiatives.
We’ve partnered with local organizations that have expanded our network. For example, we recently designed a pro-bono website for Woodbury Community Pride, an LGBTQ+ organization in the same town as ours. While offering work for free is often frowned upon, it supported our mission and resulted in key partnerships that propelled our business to the next level.
Networking and surrounding ourselves with a supportive community has kept us connected with our “why” when the intricacies of everyday business gets tough.
What were some of your biggest challenges along the way?
We face new challenges every day!
Not only are we co-owners, we’re also married…and we’re equally passionate and stubborn! We are pretty risk-averse people. As such, we’ve had to figure out how to balance our full-time jobs while building up the business to a point where it’s financially sturdy enough to take the leap into full-time entrepreneurship.
When we take that step, we won’t have a safety net like other couples, who might still have one person in a full-time job with benefits.
We have to be extremely mindful of what our priorities are so we can maximize our productivity in our limited free time. Every day we are challenged to be patient in our current situation while we work toward our goals, sometimes putting in another full work day after we’ve left our day jobs.
We’re also still figuring out how to separate personal life from work life – remembering to put down the phone while we’re eating dinner, take breaks, carve out time for ourselves, and not take work disagreements personally, etc.
Building a business can also get lonely. We keep our heads down and grind out as much work as possible, sacrificing time we would’ve otherwise spent with family and friends who don’t always understand or support the life we are trying to build.
Have you overcome the challenges? If so how?
We’re still working through a lot, but we’ve realized the importance of creating systems and automating as much as possible since we are such a small team. For example, we created an onboarding funnel for new clients – even though it took countless hours to create, it helps streamline our processes, enhance efficiency, and keep clients happy.
It takes a great deal of time to learn new skills, so we’ve also learned to focus on executing on our strengths and outsourcing work or purchasing necessary software when something is over our heads.
What have you learned and what would you like to share with other entrepreneurs?
- It’s all about the people you serve and the value you provide. If you go straight for the sell, you’re doing it wrong.
- 80% of your profitability comes from 20% of your efforts – find that 20% when you’re getting started and focus on that.
- Stand firm on your pricing, but make sure you provide enough value in exchange. There will always be people who won’t pay for your services, and that’s okay.
- Routine enhances productivity.
- Celebrate your wins, no matter how small.
- Listen to your gut!
Is there anyone you would like to meet or connect with?
We would love to expand our network and connect with other like-minded business owners. We’d also love to connect with businesses owners who have a marketing budget and are actively seeking out the services we provide.